Monday, July 30, 2018

The Drive Home

For those who don't know, I live in Saskatoon and am a Saskatchewan Roughrider season ticket holder.  This means that we drive 3 hours to every home game as well as 3 hours return trip.  Lot's of fans drive farther.  The drive to the game is usually filled with nervous anticipation, strategy talk and excitement.  The drive home? Well, it varies depending on how the game went.  One thing that is for certain - 3 hours gives you a long time to think especially after a loss.

Let's start with the Riders Offensive Line.  Every play the line back pedals and while that is expected a certain amount that leaves next to nothing for a pocket for the quarterback.  I don't know what the problem is here.  Are they under sized?  Are they old?  Are they not athletic enough?  Are they not smart enough?  I've heard fans say that their performance was better in the last few games but this is a problem that plagues us and this Roughriders team and has for several seasons now.  It doesn't matter who the quarterback is - they need to protect and if they don't no QB will be productive.  People also talk about whether the O Line knows what the QB is doing or not and that's why plays collapse but to me they should be able to do their jobs and do them well regardless of who is standing in the pocket.  Once I saw a Calgary defender drive Thad Coleman into Brandon Bridge.  I'm not laying blame and certainly the Stamps deserve credit, but should it be that easy?  Every team knows that all you have to do is apply a little bit of pressure and the O Line collapses faster than a flip up tent from Canadian Tire.  Brendan LaBatte was the unsung hero in Week 6 but the man can't do it alone.  This team needs improvement on the line first and foremost.

We all know that since Week 2 when Zach Collaros was taken out of the game due to concussion the Roughriders have had to go with back ups Brandon Bridge and David Watford.  There's been the carousel much to the chagrin of Riders media, which also worked effectively by the way.  Brandon Bridge himself is a curious subject.  He has such tremendous arm strength but to me he's a bit like Bam Bam from the Flintstones because he doesn't realize the strength he possesses.  Sure he can over throw a missile down field but then he also launches missiles when attempting screen passes.  When I re-watched Saturday's game ( I know I'm a glutton for punishment) I again noticed the mechanics of a Bridge throw.  It's awkward, he releases and there's no follow through.  I wonder if this is something that is being worked on with his Quarterback Coach?  Now, if you are a receiver how do you catch balls throw in this fashion?  They more often than not go through the hands and hit you in the chest with great force.  We often say things like "the receiver should have had that" but are they actually catch-able balls?  So I've thought long and hard (about 2 hours worth of driving) that the coaches are trying to teach him how to adjust his throwing pressure.  They are only giving him plays in which he can succeed.  He will keep getting these plays until he learns them.  I'm sure it's a similar situation for Watford however this is his first year in the CFL and less would be expected from him whereas Bridge has been in the league 4 seasons now.  

On this same subject, I was trying to relate the situation to something in my own life.  I am a piano teacher of students aged 4 - 84.  Every student walks in wanting to play Fur Elise by Beethoven.  It's not going to happen at least for 3 years.  I have to teach and instruct in layers of knowledge and give songs and pieces which gets them to the next level so eventually they can play the things they want.  When they don't accomplish the skill, they get asked to do it over and over again until they can prove to me they know it.  This also describes the Roughriders offense.  They can't play Moonlight Sonata yet because they haven't learned how to perform Alouette, Gentille Alouette.

We're an hour away from home and now I'm thinking about the O Line and Quarterback combined.  The play is're trying to make the read...your O Line is collapsing...dump the ball off.  Ball security is of number one priority so the next play instead of throwing you're going to relieve some pressure and hand off to your running back.  Maybe you have to do that several times because things are just moving so fast your can't go through your progressions.  Do you run?  Do you force a play?  The crowd is booing the decisions.  It's gotten really messy really quickly.  You can't execute the plays because everything is moving so fast.  Some points you just have to run to try to make something happen.  It's not good.  Not good at all.  

We usually arrive home by 1am after a 7pm game.  It's exhausting and all my thoughts continue to roll around in my head all night long.  I know we are all frustrated with the production of the offense on the Saskatchewan Roughriders and I also know that the coaches are doing everything they can as well.  Rider fans are known for extreme emotions and often it's polarizing.  "Plan the parade" or "Fire Jones".  None of us are very rational during trying times but I personally try to be logical.  We did lose against the number one CFL team.  The Calgary Stampeders were indeed the best team in the league going into the game being 6 - 0 now 7 - 0.  What did we think was going to happen?  I actually thought the game was going to be far worse! If we take away the fumbles in the first quarter the Riders are right there competing for the win.  I know we can't change how that quarter played out but we can give the team total credit for not giving up.  The Riders did have momentum going into the second half and they kept chipping away at the deficit.  

Today, Zach Collaros was able to practice and whether he'll be playing in Thursday's game against the Edmonton Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium is another question but these are mine...  Can our Offensive Line protect him?  Can Zach get time in the pocket?  Can they pass protect AND run block?  Can our offense execute plays competently enough to put us/the Riders in a position to win? 

The devastating news of the day was the release and criminal charges of Jerome Messam.  This is so upsetting, shocking and disappointing.  I'm not going to go into detail because the news can be found everywhere on the internet as well as the ABC Rider Fans Facebook page.  The Roughriders aren't commenting and that's fine with me.  With the charge being voyeurism I've decided I don't want to know further details.  

The bright spot for Monday was that the Riders signed streaker tackler Marcell Young, that Nick Marshall was practicing and that Duron Carter was back on offense.  We will all have to tune in to the game on Thursday to see how these changes shake out.  This will be the Riders 4th Thursday night game for those keeping track.  Edmonton is often a difficult city for our Riders to play in.  I'm hoping for a competitive game.

As always, and in spite of everything - Go Riders.

Friday, July 20, 2018

~ Friday Football Five ~

The Saskatchewan Roughriders came out victorious after a back to back series against the Hamilton TigerCats.  Wahoo! 3-2!  Here's how I see things:

1.  The turning point of the game was when Brendan LaBatte was injured and returned to the game to gut it out in the trenches.  What tremendous character, athleticism and leadership all wrapped up in one guy nicknamed Blue.  I believe this one thing is what pulled the team together.  At the same time, I don't want to hear about why the Riders only back up was Eddie Steele.  Eddie Steele himself must be amazing to be able to play both ways even if it was only a short time. Sure there are depth problems on the offensive line but this one single storyline was the difference.

2.  I am so exhausted of hearing about the so called quarterback carousel. We heard it from Glen Suitor and we hear it from all the sports media/pundits who by the way all counted us out in this game.  The bottom line here is that one guy, whether it was Branden Bridge or David Watford, had to make a move to step forward and show that he wanted that spot.  The reward?  You play well and you get more playing time.  You falter and out you come from the game.  That seems pretty motivational to me.  Not only that, but we also saw these two quarterbacks come together to help each other out.  It wasn't that Chris Jones finally heard everyone, it was that Air Canada was doing the right things and earned the time.  You can pat yourselves on the back if you want for thinking Chris Jones finally saw the light but you will be very wrong because he doesn't care what you think and he doesn't care what I think.  That's how a 4 Grey Cup winning coach operates and I applaud that.

3.  The play calling is boring.  Is it?  The whole first half was a set up for what was going to happen in the second half.  It became apparent to me in the end of the second quarter when the Riders kept running the ball and even instead of taking a knee on the last play, they ran once more.  This whole scheme was to set up for the second half of the game when the Ticats were keying on the run and we were able to take to the air.  The short throws from side to side are also to set up the run game.  Football is like a chess game.  If this one thing works then the next thing can work.  Instead of calling out the offensive coach let's take a step back and think about these things. Play calling is one thing and execution of the play is another.  In the game last night the Riders executed.

4.  Torches and pitch forks.  After the game when I took a cruise through the various fan pages I was surprised to see Ticats fans very upset with their team and coach.  It's surprising to see people wanting Johnny Manziel in the game.  Why?  For a few weeks those of us in the west have viewed Masoli as the hottest quarterback in the league...that was until he played the Riders.  What has Manziel proved?  These same fans are the people who also didn't like what the Riders were doing with our quarterbacks.  What do you want?  Do you want the next guy when the starter isn't doing what you want?  Do you want a guy to find a rhythm?  You can't have it both ways.  Be happy with what you do have.  Ultimately, I think Hamilton's downfall was that they game planned for the team they played two weeks ago and not the refreshed and tuned in team that was coming in.  That would explain why they tried a trick play...and, well, we know how that went for them.

5.  Funny - no one is talking about Duron Carter this week.  You remember him right?  Bo Levi Mitchell's favourite receiver?  Next week the Stampeders roll into Mosaic Stadium.  They are without doubt the best team in the league right now.  Bo Levi had a leg injury in Week 5 but has been named starter in their tilt against the Montreal Alouettes.  Will Carter get a chance to pick him off again?  We'll all have to wait to see!  I'll be in my seat in section 126 as usual.  

Thanks for reading as always.  Don't forget to look for my Power "Groupings" at the end of each week and join us on ABC Rider Fans to continue the conversation!